Finding a solution to climate change is not a simple task. You may have heard that we need to reduce our carbon footprint, meaning we must reduce the levels of carbon dioxide we emit into the atmosphere and therefore reduce our reliance on fossil fuels where we can.
Governments and organisations across the world have recognised the fact that we are in the midst of a climate emergency. Many now have targets to become carbon neutral in the near future, meaning that they will be removing as much CO2 from the atmosphere as they emit. But for most industries and individuals, becoming carbon neutral is no easy feat, so that’s where carbon offsetting comes in.
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Carbon offsetting is a way to compensate for your carbon emissions by investing in emission saving schemes somewhere else. Individuals and businesses can calculate exactly how much carbon they produce/have produced and fund projects that remove equivalent levels of carbon from the atmosphere.
There are many different ways you can remove carbon from the atmosphere, each with varying levels of success and scalability. Some of the most common carbon offsetting projects you will find include:
Carbon offsetting should not be seen as an excuse to continue emission, instead, it should be a way to account for your unavoidable emissions, while you reduce your carbon emissions elsewhere.
Reducing your emissions can start with basic lifestyle choices. Turning down your heating, only boiling the water you need and turning off electrical equipment can all contribute to reducing your carbon output and will go a long way to reducing your energy bill as well
Investing in making your home more energy-efficient, by installing cost-saving light bulbs, insulating external walls and installing an efficient or renewable boiler. This will cost more upfront, but the money can be made back through energy savings and government subsidies.
There are massive range of offsetting projects that you can choose to invest in. These will range from rainforest protection, wind power support or providing efficient cookstoves for developing countries. Many will also carry additional, humanitarian benefits, so it is worthwhile researching to find the project you most want to support.
When choosing an offsetting project, it is important to make sure that it is verified and will achieve the goals advertised. Organisations offer accreditations to offsetting projects and will audit them annually to ensure they are keep to their targets.
Certifications include the Verified Carbon Standard (VCS), Verified Emission Reductions (VER), Quality Assurance Standard (QAS) and the Certified Emission Reductions (CER). These certifications can be awarded by The Gold Standard Foundation or VERRA.
Many carbon offsetting projects do draw a lot of criticism regarding their efficacy. Some studies have shown that emission reductions from carbon offsetting projects are often overstated and are unlikely to result in a net carbon reduction. Arguments are also made regarding the long-term offsetting of tree planting projects, as the carbon removed from the atmosphere is only locked away for the lifespan of the tree and is likely to be re-released if the land is repurposed or trees are burnt down.
It is important to ensure that an offset project doesn’t just move the emissions to another part of the world. Preventing deforestation in one area may lead to it being carried out somewhere else and therefore will not result in net negative emissions.
Many carbon offsetting projects, including accredited ones, do not provide lasting decreases in carbon emissions. However, investing in these projects can provide an important stopgap as you reduce your contribution to carbon emissions.